Alice in Texas

Not writing here anymore- see top post for details of my new blogs.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

the end of fashion


Here's a good way to lose half my remaining reader (actually, there could be hundreds of you for all I know, as I haven't bothered adding a sitemeter): I am now going to talk about fashion.

The significance of clothing to the world as a whole is obvious- witness the hijab and the burqua, the black hats of the Chassidim, and the staggering amount of time, effort and money that goes into producing clothing in the West. We even have a Western kind of clothing "ethic" now, in organic, ecological clothing lines. But the idea of fashion, always changing and based on nothing other than moneymaking for its own sake, is inherently offensive, or at least boring, to a lot of sensible people; and for very good reasons indeed.

However, from this churning mass come up occasionally good ideas, and as a person who believes it is the good ideas that will ultimately stick, I find this encouraging. You might think, walking down the street, that such optimism is utterly bonkers. What about all that uncovered, wobbling, unappealing flesh? Why do young people these days all model themselves on Shaggy from "Scooby Doo"? Only the other day I saw someone cycling along in a t-shirt bearing a legend that would have had him arrested for obscenity not so many years ago. And it is obvious that the idea of exposure has never been more extreme than it is now, what with the pants (yes I mean trousers)-falling-off-to-show-six-inches-of-underwear phenomenon, the clinging tracksuit (surely the last thing you need to cling?), the RSJ push-up cleavage bra, and so on and so on.

So I will not blame you for a moment if you do not share my optimism that lots more people are going to be looking stylish, decent, pleasant to the eye and overall undisturbing, in a year or two's time. But that is my prediction, based on a slowly emerging new line of thought in the fashion industry (slow emergence being in itself highly unusual in this field of thought). Fashion trends are always about reacting against the last trend, and this one, I think, reacts against the entire idea of fashion, which makes it pretty radical. It is, instead, about beauty. Not the beauty of the female sexual form, but the beauty of the clothes, which complement the female form rather than just revealing it or obliterating/overriding it.

If you don't mind looking like a slob, then fine. But the ideal clothing, in my opinion, is comfortable, practical, easy to wear (which means not revealing), and also beautiful in itself. Beautiful clothes should make the person wearing them look beautiful, but not in an artificial way, merely because they do not interfere with the wearer's inherent, or natural, beauty, by distracting from it with either attention-seeking of their own, or jarring ugliness.

And I think when we get these clothes, which will happen not just when they are available but when we "get" these clothes, it will be the end of fashion as we understand it now. There will still be new shows and new collections, and there will still be people wearing horrible things, and so on, but these will be insignificant. Whereas, throughout the history of fashion so far, trends have had a huge influence on what we wear and how we perceive clothes, far stronger than most of us are aware of. We are more aesthetically sensitive than we think, and our opinions often change simply because fashion dictated it. How many female readers once wore black leggings and baggy tops all the time, and now regard them as horrendously awful, ugly, dreadful things? They seemed comfortable and attractive at the time. What happened? Fashion changed, that is all.

But if I am right, the next set of trends to come in will stick forever, and never be regarded as ugly. We know that this happens with clothes: plain old-fashioned jeans will never be ugly (although low-rise flared ones shortly will); straightforward t-shirts will be worn forever; and the relatively recent "vintage" trend is the most significant beginning of the end of fashion- some of us have been wearing decades-old things for twenty years, because really good clothes can and do stay beautiful. Not that people will stop buying new clothes, there will always be room for positive change in an individual person's life- but the constant perception-shifting that is caused by fashion's latest trends will stop.

Not many people notice this in themselves, because no-one likes to think that their aesthetic perception is subject to their cultural environment. But perhaps if I suggest that the clothes you have to see other people wearing might well dramatically improve in the next year or two, that could sound like good news. And maybe if I suggest that there will be lots more nice, good, non-dating, "classic" clothes for you to buy and wear, that would sound like good news too. Personally, I am very excited, because nice clothes make me very happy, but I can't wait all that time so I may have to get a sewing machine soon.

Next post, I will talk about examples of actual clothes.


At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Sharon Ferguson said...

Hi Alice - just linked you up in a post of my own.

I think you are absolutely correct, and I have been longing for the day when I can wear what flatters me the best and makes me feel the prettiest without feeling like I am out of step with the rest of the fashion world. Which is why I have taken to making my own clothing and seeking out patterns that I like the best, including that dreaded crochet stuff! LOL

Its how I felt in the 80s. Didnt feel like wearing the punk? Wear Victorian? Didn't feel especially preppy? Wear cowboy!



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